With both teams coming off home losses, the Jets and Dolphins flew in to London for the 12th International Series game at Wembley which took place on Sunday.
This was the first trip over for the Jets, whereas the Dolphins made their third visit, having being edged out by the Giants in the first game back in 2007, and an easy ride against the Raiders last year.
That first game 9 years back was only memorable for the occasion, as the quality on the field was poor with the Giants winning 13-10. The tickets for that first game were predominantly snapped up by touts and opportunists, leaving the majority of true UK NFL fans disappointed. As a result there was a surreal atmosphere. I remember a comment Gary Lineker made about his time playing soccer for Grampus Eight in Japan, stating that when a fantastic defence splitting pass was made there was barely a ripple of applause from the fans, whereas they would cheer wildly when a goalkeeper took a long goal kick, and I found it to be a similar type of situation in that 2007 Giants-Dolphins game, with routine field goal conversions being greeted with celebrations, whereas tough running back yardage was barely acknowledged.
As the years have passed, the tickets are now more accessible with the novelty factor worn off, as well of course of having three fixtures each year. The resale websites still have big numbers of tickets advertised, however it would appear the days of people buying a £50 ticket and selling it for £400 are thankfully gone, and the crowds are certainly appear more knowledgeable that they were in 2007, and the atmosphere being improved also, with the fans events outside the stadium helping many people get into gameday mode.
The game on Sunday was fairly one-sided Jets win as I am sure most of the readers on this site will have seen either at the game or on TV. By the time the Dolphins managed to get going a bit the game had already passed them by. The continuation this year of the 2.30pm kick off time is proving popular both here and across the pond, with the breakfast time game hooking big TV audiences in the USA, and leaving Wembley here at around 6pm rather than 9pm makes a big difference for travel on public transport, especially with other big rugby and football events taking place in London on Sunday.
With the commitment to future games in London, at Wembley for the near future and at the new Tottenham stadium in a few years’ time, the game is extremely healthy here and the London franchise rumours may yet come to fruition.
Last word goes to the Dolphins mascot, just too weird for words, check it out on YouTube if you have not seen it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jBYSgdqOjI
New York Jets 27 Miami Dolphins 14
In the first International Series game of the season, the Jets dominated the flailing Dolphins in a game that was never as close as the score suggests. A game that got Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin fired.
The Jets defense shut down Miami’s up-tempo offense, giving quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Chris Ivory plenty of opportunities to score points. Fitzpatrick finished 16/29 for 218 yards, a 10 yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker and an interception.
But it was Ivory who was the clearest representation of New York’s dominance. Ivory rushed for 166 yards on 29 carries, with a three yard touchdown run against Miami’s disappointed, dysfunctional defensive line. Zac Stacy added a two yard scoring run for the Jets.
Miami had just 11 carries for 59 yards between four rushers as the Jets dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Jets sacked Ryan Tannehill three times and intercepted him twice. The Dolphins are still without a sack after their Wembley trip.
Tannehill completed 19 of his 44 passes (just 43.2%!) for 198 yards and two touchdowns; eight yards to tight end Jake Stoneburner and ten to Kenny Stills, along with the two interceptions.
As interim coach, the Dolphins appointed Dan Campbell, who spent 11 years as a player in the NFL before becoming Miami’s tight end coach in 2011. Campbell will have to turn things around fast to salvage the season for the Dolphins.
The Jets still look like New England’s closest challengers in the AFC East, and could even contend for a wild card spot if they keep playing the way they are.
Words by Dean Wright, Photos by Gordon Dedman
Allianz Park, home of Saracens RFC was the setting for an early afternoon practice for the Miami Dolphins here in London, ahead of their clash with the New York Jets this coming Sunday.
The atmosphere was calm and relaxed, yet there was an edge of concentration and determination that floated amongst the team.
Kicker Andrew Franks worked on stretching and kicking exercises on his own while waiting to be called to the practice field, while on the other hand Jonas Gray and Lamar Miller were practising Rugby passing moves but from what was seen it’s not being suggested that there could be a change in sports at all.
The team ran through sets of chosen plays with no real excursion, just making sure that all knew the ins and outs.
The most attention to detail was the team practice of the kick off, in particular the onside kick. Different variations were tried and again all were on point.
It raised a few questions about whether or not the onside kick would feature in Sunday’s game at all.
The hours practice flew by and the end was indicated when the schools who had been cheering on the team during the practice made their way onto the field accompanied by the beautiful Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders to take part in the Play60 event that had been organised for later that day.
While all this wound down, the action moved inside Allianz Park to the 100 Club Lounge, where a Press Call was taking place with Head Coach Joe Philbin and Quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Philbin took the podium and hit straight away with saying he was delighted to be back here in London for a 2nd consecutive year representing the National Football League. When asked about a possible NFL Franchise being based here possibly within the next 5 years he simply said “Well there is a fan base here [London] to have a team”
Philbin stated that the short turn around for the team arriving here was no different to last year and the plan was to treat the whole experience as business as usual. Practice and meetings went ahead as normal. All schedules stay the same but all the same hoped the players enjoyed their time.
He made it clear that making more plays was a must for the Dolphins and securing more First downs to gain more usable yards.
Philbin was showing signs of fatigue and left as quickly as he arrived but you got the feeling that he is one Head Coach with a lot on his plate.
Ryan Tannehill then took his place on the podium and was reasonably upbeat about playing at Wembley this season.
Tannehill explained that division games are the ones they feel they need to step up for and hope to make great plays against a great defence in the New York Jets.
After 2 losses Tannehill explained that the Dolphins were not “Angry” just “Not Happy”. The Dolphins were feeling an intensity and an urgency that they need to improve the way they are playing. “Throwing things and saying outlandish things is not going to change anything.”
It was clear to see that Tannehill and the entire Miami Dolphins Team have high expectations of themselves.
Tannehill finished by saying that he wanted to play better, make more plays and be successful. His confidence was evident but it’s on the field where that will be proven.
Regardless of what has happened in the past it is obvious that Sundays Game will be an epic clash with 2 resurging teams fighting to have their hand raised as the winner.
Roger Goodgroves provides some photographs from the New York Jets practice, press conference and Play60 event
Words and above slideshow by Ree Dawes
As the New York Jets touched down in London town early Friday morning, no one was expecting the talk of the trip to be toilet roll.
With major news outlets on both sides of the Atlantic picking up on the story that the Jets shipped over 350 rolls of toilet paper. Head Coach Todd Bowles said he ‘couldn’t possibly comment on it’ whilst Centre Nick Mangold, who had previously visited London before training camp said he had ‘no issues’ with it then.
But, back to football! After travelling all night, the team arrived at Heathrow at 6am, with breakfast at 7 and meetings at 9am, there was no rest for the team but it didn’t seem to faze them, saying they slept on the plane and that they weren’t going to use it as an excuse.
Mangold, Brandon Marshall (WR), Darrelle Revis (S) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB) all spoke to the press and were adamant that this game is neutral for both teams, saying neither is at an advantage because the ground is neutral and they’ve both had to endure the travelling.
Head Coach Todd Bowles started the press conference addressing injuries, Eric Decker (knee) and Darrelle Revis (hamstring) were limited during training this week, with the decision about Decker, having to come down to Sunday, whilst Revis said he was feeling better and that he will be OK.
Despite the hiccup Brandon Marshall experienced last week versus the Eagles, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, said he has built a good connection with all the people and that Brandon is “easy to throw to as he’s such a big target and a smart receiver, he’s always reminding me to throw him the ball. We have a very talented receiver group.”
Marshall, who played for Miami in 09-10, said there was nothing special playing against them as it’s completely different to the team he was with. About facing the challenges he will face against the Dolphins’ secondary, he said “Brent Grimes and Rashad Jones. They’re a pretty good secondary and scary at times. Grimes is a freak of an athlete and super smart, he’s one of the guys that knows everything going on the field, you give away a tendency, he’s gonna pick it up.”
When asked whether they expected the huge amount of support the NFL has over here, Nick Mangold said he told his team-mates about his experience in London earlier this year and that “they were surprised by the stories he bought back and they’re experiencing it now and they’ll welcome any support they get on Sunday.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick said, “Looking at the big picture and growing the NFL and revenue stream, it’s something that is appealing to everybody. I think it’s something that’s going to happen, I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next few years but I think it’s something that will eventually happen because of how successful the games have been over here.”
With the story breaking Friday morning that George Osborne had given his support of having an NFL team over here, Brandon Marshall said he wasn’t surprised by the level of interest the NFL has over here and that “we have an awesome sport and you guys (Brits) are huge sport fans and when you see a great game, you appreciate it.”
The team were treated to Friday afternoon off after training, when asked what they’d be doing the responses were:
Nick Mangold – “it’s Friday, so it’s spa day. Get a massage and work on my nails… It’s just a regular Friday and you try not to change to much of your routine.” When asked if there was anything, he wanted to do whilst over here he said, “play a football game, if there was anything else I wanted to do, I’d come back and do it later but right now its football.”
Derrelle Revis said he was going to rest because his body’s ‘a little off’.
Brandon Marshall said he was going to spend the afternoon with his family but that there was “something really cool going on every Saturday here in London, Portobello (market), I’m an antique guy, I collect antiques.” In case you were wondering, his favourite antique is a 1940 Doctor’s bag, and his ‘thing’ now is collecting antique bags.
Whilst the press conference was happening, the team hosted a Play 60 event for local school children, running them through various football related drills. With the sun shining and music blaring, the kids all had smiles on their faces with the energy bouncing off the Jets players who were teaching the children how to celebrate after a touchdown (a few spikes were thrown).
Philadelphia Eagles 24 New York Jets 17
After an 0-2 start and dismal performances from their offense, Philly needed to get a win to salvage their season. The Eagles took advantage of four Jets turnovers to get a much needed win. But they still looked far from preseason expectations, almost giving the game back to the Jets through mistakes and penalties.
Sam Bradford threw for just 118 yards, completing 14 out of 28 passes and adding a 23 yard touchdown to running back Ryan Mathews. With DeMarco Murray out with a hamstring injury, Mathews was Philly’s feature back against the Jets. He finally got the running game going with 25 carries for 108 yards.
Darren Sproles’ punt return touchdown looked to put the game out of reach for the Jets. Without Eric Decker or Chris Ivory, the Jets struggled. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 58 times, completing 35 of those attempts. He threw three interceptions to hand the Eagles the game.
Brandon Marshall has enjoyed a renaissance in the Big Apple so far this season, and he had 10 catches for 109 yards including this 16 yard touchdown catch on Sunday. But Marshall also blew another scoring opportunity with a weird lateral pass that Philadelphia recovered as a fumble, sealing the 24-17 loss for the Jets.
The Jets will head to Wembley this week to take on the Miami Dolphins in the first divisional game ever in the International Series.
Buffalo Bills 41 Miami Dolphins 14
After humiliating losses last week, both teams were hoping to bounce back this weekend. The Bills were still angry after a slapping down from the Patriots, while the Dolphins were hoping to salvage their season after an inexcusable loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Bills delivered another beatdown to a potential AFC playoff contender with a 41-14 win in Miami. Tyrod Taylor impressed in his first road start, completing 21 of his 29 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns, including this 25 yard score to Charles Clay.
Rookie running back Karlos Williams carried much of the load against the Dolphins, finishing with 12 carries for 110 yards and a 41 yard score. Miami managed just 104 total rushing yards with three different backs against Buffalo’s dominant front seven.
Ryan Tannehill had carried the team through the first two weeks with good play. But Miami’s last strength became a weakness against Buffalo. Tannehill completed 26 of his 49 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns to Rishard Matthews, including this 46 yard score. But he also threw three interceptions, including this pick six which Bills linebacker Preston Brown returned for 43 yard touchdown.
Miami’s front seven, which looked like it could’ve been one of the league’s best, floundered once again. After disturbing reports of star free agent Ndamukong Suh going AWOL in last week’s loss, the Dolphins failed to generate a single sack or turnover against Buffalo.
The Dolphins sink to last place in the AFC East after yet more poor play on both sides of the ball. Head coach Joe Philbin is on the hot seat, and things don’t get any easier when the Dolphins face the much-improved Jets in London this week.
The Bills once again cemented themselves as the closest challenger to the Patriots in the AFC East and as a contender for a wild card spot. They will host the New York Giants this week.
Miami Dolphins 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 23
In Sunday’s battle of the Wembley-bound Florida teams, Blake Bortles led the game-winning drive as the Jaguars upset the Dolphins 23-20.
Bortles completed 18 of his 33 passes for 273 yards and touchdown passes of three and 46 yards to receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson finished with six catches for 155 yards alongside his two scores as the Jaguars found some offense despite still missing star free agent Julius Thomas.
The Jaguars managed 113 yards on the ground against Miami’s supposedly dominant front seven. Rookie T.J. Yeldon led the Jags with 70 yards, followed by 27 from Bortles. Miami didn’t record a single sack on Bortles despite a star-studded pass rush.
Ryan Tannehill looked good, completing 30 out of 44 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns. However, Miami struggled to move the ball at times on the ground and couldn’t score in big moments. Tannehill was sacked twice as star tackle Brandon Albert left the game with an injury.
Miami had two receivers who finished with over 100 yards. Rishard Matthews caught six passes for 115 yards while Jarvis Landry caught eight for 110. But if the Dolphins want to live up to their preseason hype, they need to turn impressive yardage into points, especially against supposed minnows like Jacksonville.
New York Jets 20 Indianapolis Colts 7
Andrew Luck and the Colts suffered yet another upset as the Jets won 20-7 in Lucas Oil Stadium. New York forced five turnovers, intercepting Luck three times. The Colts didn’t score until the fourth quarter.
Luck completed 21 of his 37 passes for 250 yards and a 26 yard touchdown to Donte Moncrief. Luck’s three interceptions came courtesy of a shoeless Darelle Revis and safeties Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist. Moncrief finished with seven catches for 122 yards.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good game for the Jets, completing 22 of his 34 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns to Eric Decker (six yards) and Brandon Marshall (15 yards). Fitzpatrick also threw an interception.
Decker finished with eight catches for 97 yards, while Marshall has seven for 101. Both teams didn’t use the ground game much. Frank Gore continued to struggle for Indianapolis, rushing 15 times for just 57 yards.
His Jets counterpart Chris Ivory didn’t fare much better with 14 rushes for 57 yards. But Indianapolis allowed 101 total yards on the ground as their run defense continued to be cause for concern.
The Colts fall to 0-2 and look like they have major flaws. The defense is non-existent and Luck is struggling with an aging offensive line and offense. The Jets sit at 2-0 and look to be much better than last year. If they keep playing well, they could challenge the Patriots in the AFC East.
Miami Dolphins 17 Washington Redskins 10
Miami has endured a fair share of hype this offseason, with development from $96 million quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the signing of marquee free agent Ndamukong Suh. But the Washington Redskins almost upset the applecart.
The Redskins led for most of the game. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 21 of his 31 passes for 196 yards and a 4 yard touchdown to tight end Jordan Reed, despite two interceptions. Running back Alfred Morris rushed for 121 yards against Miami’s supposedly dominant front four.
Washington’s notoriously shaky offensive line only gave up one sack to the Dolphins star-studded pass rush, and it wasn’t Suh who capitalised.
Despite three sacks, Ryan Tannehill completed 22 out of his 34 passes for 226 yards with a three yard score to receiver Ryan Matthews. But it was star receiver Jarvis Landry who secured the 17-10 win for the Dolphins with a 69 yard punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins should face an easier opponent in Week Two with a road matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cleveland Browns 10 New York Jets 31
After starter Josh McCown left the game in the first quarter with a concussion, Johnny Manziel finally got his second chance in the NFL. It started well with a 54 yard touchdown pass to receiver Travaris Benjamin. Manziel completed 13 out of 24 passes for 182 yards.
But he also committed several turnovers, including an interception. Manziel was sacked three times and lost two forced fumbles as the Jets rolled over the Browns with a dominant 31-10 win. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 15 of his 24 attempts for 179 yards and two touchdowns to potent 1-2 receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
Chris Ivory added two scores on the ground, finishing with 20 carries for 91 yards. Manziel’s turnovers set up the majority of New York’s scores.
The Jets travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts this week, who suffered a defensive beatdown from Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills. With the Jets built in a similar vein, perhaps they could spring another upset on the AFC favourites.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22 Miami Dolphins 17
Ryan Tannehill and most of Miami’s starters rested on Thursday night, but first-round pick Devante Parker saw his first action of the preseason. The former Louisville receiver caught just one pass for 11 yards on three targets, but just having him suit up will give Miami’s offense a boost.
Jay Ajayi also had a decent showing. The British-born running back out of Boise State had nine carries for 66 yards and caught two passes for 37 yards. But Ajayi also gave up a safety after being tackled in Miami’s end zone, and later left the game with a cracked rib. Despite that, he is expected to make the final roster and will be playing in Wembley in Week 4.
The Dolphins played backup quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Mcleod Bethel-Thompson. Freeman, a former first-round pick, finished 13/22 for 165 yards and two interceptions. He was cut on Friday. Bethel-Thompson was 11/16 for 127 yards and two interceptions. He remains on the roster at the moment.
Miami’s scores came from Mike Gillislee’s two touchdown runs, while Tampa Bay scored on a Mike Glennon touchdown pass and linebacker Khaseem Greene’s 98 yard pick-six. Greene was later cut. Jameis Winston, the first overall pick, didn’t play in the 22-17 victory. Starting guard Garrett Gilkey went down with a knee injury, adding more woes to Tampa’s already struggling offensive line.
Philadelphia Eagles 18 New York Jets 24
With both teams resting most of their starters, chances were given to players battling for roster spots. Jets backup quarterback Matt Flynn finished 10/14 for 136 yards and two touchdowns and an interception in a 24-18 Jets win. Zac Stacy added his second touchdown of the preseason with a catch from Flynn. Running back Daryl Richardson ran for a third score.
Kiko Alonso played a single series for the Eagles, looking fully recovered from the injury that made Buffalo trade him. The game was really a duel between Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley for the third-string quarterback job in Philadelphia. Tebow completed 11/17 for 189 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, and added 32 yards on four carries.
Barkley completed just four of his nine attempts for 45 yards and an interception. He was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional 2016 seventh-round pick on Friday. It looks like it’s Tebow-time in Philly.
*Philadelphia have released QB Tim Tebow a day after this report was submitted.
Atlanta Falcons 9 Miami Dolphins 14
Ryan Tannehill continued his impressive preseason showing with another good performance against the Falcons on Saturday night. Tannehill finished 15/19 for 145 yards and a touchdown. He has yet to throw an interception during the preseason. Jarvis Landry proved to be Tannehill’s favorite target, finishing with _ catches for _ yards and this touchdown catch.
By comparison, Matt Ryan had a tough night against Miami’s pass rush, who sacked him three times in four series. Ryan finished just 3/7 for only 49 yards as the Dolphins beat Atlanta 14-9.
British-born Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi saw extended reps, carrying the ball seven times for 25 yards. With the offense looking good, Ajayi could earn a roster spot.
New York Jets 28 New York Giants 18
Ryan Fitzpatrick showed why he is one of the league’s better backups on Saturday night, leading the Jets to a 28-18 win over home-town rivals the Giants. Fitzpatrick completed nine of his 14 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
One score went 18 yards to Eric Decker, while former St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy caught a screen pass to add a 24 yard score. Fitzpatrick also showed good rhythm and connection with Brandon Marshall, who finished with three catches for 33 yards.
Returning cornerback Antonio Cromartie capitalised on the Giants’ offensive struggles and intercepted Eli Manning for a 59 yard pick-six. Manning completed 12 of his 16 passes for 91 yards, and was also sacked.
In one of the most anticipated matchups of the weekend, Odell Beckham Jr. did not shy away from star lockdown corner Darelle Revis.
With Fitzpatrick and the offense finding rhythm and the defense making plays, the Jets could surprise some teams this season.
Atlanta Falcons 22 New York Jets 30
With Geno Smith still out with a broken jaw, Ryan Fitzpatrick started for the Jets hoping to gain more time getting used to the offense. Fitzpatrick finished 13 of 19 for 118 yards, but those numbers were virtually meaningless as the Jets were forced to punt on their first five possessions. During those drives, the Jets picked up just four first downs.
Chris Ivory provided some solace with a 33 yard touchdown run. Then rookie quarterback Bryce Petty took over. The former Baylor product finished 12 of 19 for 168 yards and a touchdown pass against Atlanta’s backups. If Petty can perform well against starters, could he take over in New York?
Rookie defensive lineman Leonard Williams also had a big night. He wreaked havoc on Atlanta’s backup offense, collecting a safety and 1.5 sacks as well as leading the Jets with four tackles. With Muhammad Wilkerson’s contract dispute still unresolved and Sheldon Richardson serving a _ game suspension to start the season, New York pulled off a draft day coup taking Williams.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan looked impressive once again in limited action, completing 4 out of his 5 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. Running back Terron Ward got the opening score on the ground, but Atlanta eventually fell 22-30 to New York.
Miami Dolphins 30 Carolina Panthers 31
Ryan Tannehill continued to look good in the preseason with an impressive performance in Carolina. Tannehill finished 12 of 15 for 102 yards and a touchdown. He is clearly comfortable in the second year of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s system.
The Dolphins’ defensive line kept the Panthers out of the end zone four times on one drive, with four run stops. Ndamukong Suh suited up, but didn’t register any tackles. The mere threat of being caught by Suh forced Carolina’s runners to avoid him, setting up tackles for his team-mates.
Cam Newton struggled for the Panthers, finishing 4 of 10 for just 42 yards and an interception. Newton was without main target Kelvin Benjamin, who will miss his sophomore season with an ACL tear sustained in practice.
Two touchdowns on the ground from running back Brandon Wegher and a touchdown pass from Joe Webb gave Carolina a narrow 31-30 win. Despite the loss, the Dolphins look in better shape this season.
New York Jets 3 Detroit Lions 23
The Lions opened their 2015 campaign with a win over the struggling Jets at Ford Field. Quarterback Matthew Stafford took command of the opening series, completing his only two passes to Golden Tate; one of which went for a 35 yard touchdown. Stafford finished with 57 yards.
Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah, drafted in the second round, stole the show. Abdullah finished with 67 yards, including 45 on a single play in which he darted through the Jets defense with an impressive burst. A good performance on his debut gives the Lions hope for a revived ground game this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets’ starting quarterback after Geno Smith suffered a broken jaw in a fight in practice, completed two of three passes for 16 yards on his only series, leading the Jets to a field goal. Rookie Bryce Petty finished with 10 out of 18 for 50 yards.
The Jets seemed to struggle in new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system. They recorded just 123 yards of total offense and no running back gained more than 35 yards in total. The Lions offense looked in good shape, and the defense dominated the Jets. It could be another impressive year for Detroit.
Miami Dolphins 10 Chicago Bears 27
The Dolphins looked impressive on Ryan Tannehill’s opening drive. The 4th year quarterback completed 6 out of 7 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown pass to receiver Jarvis Landry.
But after Tannehill left the game, the Dolphins folded in the second half. Chicago’s defense forced four turnovers and took charge of the game, setting up two rushing touchdowns for the Bears. Chicago scored four field goals to take the win.
Without Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Brent Grimes for much of the game, the Dolphins couldn’t keep the Bears from exploiting turnovers. Miami’s backup quarterbacks threw 3 interceptions, and running back Mike Gillislee fumbled.
On his first and only series, Jay Cutler completed 4 out of 7 passes for 42 yards. Backup Jimmy Clausen took over for the rest of the game, finishing with 17/27 for 151 yards.
In a meaningful game, it’s likely that the Bears would’ve lost. But with defensive players determined to earn a roster spot, they came away with the win. Miami has some work to do on both sides of the ball before they travel to Wembley in Week 4 to face the Jets.
The AFC East could be the league’s most intriguing division this year. Defending Super Bowl champions New England seem to have taken a step back, while Miami, New York and Buffalo have all orchestrated great off-seasons. Expect at least one wild card team from this division, which makes division games even more important this season.
The clash between the Jets and Dolphins at Wembley will be the first ever Division game staged in the International Series. Olivier Vernon, a defensive end for Miami, knows just how pivotal the game will be. “This is a big game, a big divisional game. The fans are in for a treat.”
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill enjoyed a career year last season with new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who coached the Dolphins to their first season in franchise history with both a 4000 yard passer and a 1000 yard rusher. A second year in Lazor’s system should see another jump from Tannehill.
Miami defended well against the pass last year, but were 24th against the run. Olivier knows how crucial stopping the run is. “You’ve got to stop the run before you can even start the pass rush or they’ll run all day. We know they have a lot of talent in New York, and we’ve got to limit them.”
Enter Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins made Suh the highest paid non-quarterback in NFL history with a six-year, $114 million contract. A defensive game-changer, Suh had 10.5 sacks and 13 stuffed runs last year for the Detroit Lions. Add him to Miami’s already fearsome pass rush with Olivier and Cameron Wake, and they would’ve combined for 28.5 sacks, 19 stuffed runs, and five forced fumbles last year.
Jets centre Nick Mangold knows about tackling Suh, and is looking forward to the matchup. “It should be exciting. We’ve played each other a couple of times but obviously now in the division, it’s going to add to it. It should be a good battle.”
But New York’s defensive line is just as formidable. With Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and 1st round pick Leonard Williams, Tannehill will have his work cut out trying to avoid one of the league’s best units. And even if he does, he still has to contend with New York’s revamped ‘No Fly Zone’.
The Jets re-united with both Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in the off-season. As well as being one of the best lockdown corners of his generation, Revis’ return weakens the Patriots after leaving them after just one season.
The Jets may be better up front and in the secondary, but the offense is unpredictable at best, even with free agent signing Brandon Marshall. Geno Smith is out for at least six weeks after a fight with a team-mate at training camp, so the starting job will likely fall to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Miami had a convincing win over the Oakland Raiders last year at Wembley, but against the Jets defense, it won’t be so easy this time around.